April 8, 2004

What's Next, Shooting Santa?

From time to time, a story comes across the wire that makes one wonder if humans can survive without cerebrums. By all evidence, it's not only theoretically possible, but occasionally can be verified. For instance, the people in charge of the Easter celebration at Glassport Assembly of God in Glassport, PA, either provide living proof of this theory or try very hard to avoid thinking things all the way through:

A church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs, upsetting several parents and young children. People who attended Saturday's performance at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, "There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

I don't know to which orientation or denomination the Glassport church belongs; some fundamentalist churches feel strongly about traditions such as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus distracting children from the center of the faith, Jesus Christ. Usually they exclude any reference to them at their celebrations. Sometimes they go so far as to make it a teaching opportunity for the children in their congregations. All that is fine.

But when they have an audience of young children for an Easter celebration and then subject her to a mock whipping, they've lost their minds, if they had brains to start.

Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasn't meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence. "The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter bunny, it is about Jesus Christ," Bickerton said. ...

Melissa Salzmann, who brought her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. "He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped," Salzmann said.

Okay ... let's do a reality check. You have a congregation comprised of all ages. You have an Easter program. Do you think some small children may be in attendance? And if you answer that in the affirmative, do you make sure your program is appropriate for (a) all ages, or (b) for those who can define "irreverence"?

Besides, is irreverence really appropriate for an Easter celebration?

And if you think that was bad, check out the rest of the show:

Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman, said Jennifer Norelli-Burke, another parent who saw the show in Glassport, a community about 10 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. "It was very disturbing," Norelli-Burke said. "I could not believe what I saw. It wasn't anything I was expecting."

Next time I throw an Easter party, I'll have to check my list for a bullwhip, a drunk (Elder? Saint Paul? JB?), and a Gothette with an Exacto knife, although I'll have to re-read the Gospels to make sure I understand their biblical context. My son's in-laws are inviting us over for this Sunday's celebrations, and right now I'm sure they're relieved that we're not hosting it this year. Watch out for the Easter egg hunt, though -- the egg-stomp sounds like a fun new tradition.

Of course, I hate hardboiled eggs, anyway, but I wouldn't flog the Bunny who brought them, for Pete's sake.


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